Thoroughbred horse racing in Saskatchewan may not be leaving after all.
It would take the place of the old race track at Marquis Downs in Saskatoon that was permanently axed in March by Prairieland Park as it looks to bring a professional soccer team to the city. The team would play out of the space where Marquis Downs is located.
Moosomin Downs project team member Neil Sasakamoose says the idea is a way to replace cancelled horse racing at Marquis Downs and keep it alive in Saskatchewan.
“It’s a large undertaking. This is all about trying to salvage horse racing for the long term here for the industry,” he said.
“The support from all 74 First Nations supporting Moosomin (Downs) has been incredible.”
Horsemen’s benevolent and protective association (HBPA) Saskaskatchewan division president Eddie Esquirol says the prospect of having horse racing in Saskatchewan once again is the best news he has heard in a while.
“When the announcement was made we are coming back to race, everybody is on cloud nine,” Esquirol said.
“The phone has been ringing nonstop from fellow people within the industry.”
Esquirol told Global News many of the local jockeys and horses have been competing in cities such as Lethbridge, Edmonton, and Winnipeg after the last two years of competition in the province was cancelled.
Local horse jockey Nicole Hein says the industry is definitely one worth saving. The appetite is there in Saskatchewan.
“Contrary to some comments that it’s failing sport,” Hein said, “it shows people are willing to go to certain extents to build a new race track and have horse racing.”
The HBPA said in a statement that it can’t wait to work with the FSIN and Moosomin First Nations and the return of the Saskatchewan bred stakes program.
“The recent announcement indicates that Moosomin First Nations recognizes there is a significant passion for horse racing in Saskatchewan and the industry is worth sustaining now and for generations to come,” the organization said.
Sasakamoose says there is a strong connection between horse racing and the First Nations communities.
“There is a lot of economic spin-offs from horse racing to First Nations directly and non-First Nations. It has always been a real gathering place.”
Sasakamoose says discussions have been ongoing for months and there is a lot of work to do on the project such as finding backers, support to help cover the costs and long-term success and sustainability of the track.
The Moosomin Downs at Moosomin Plains would be located on a 124-acre piece of land just northwest of Saskatoon.
Sasakamoose says the plan is to have the track and facilities built by 2023 and have racing by the summer of that year.